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Candidates' Forum
Responses to Readers' Questions

Barbara L. Bigelow
Candidate For Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly
3 year term ( 2 seats open)
About Barbara Bigelow


Published: Tuesday
September 16, 2003
Last updated: Sunday - 10/05/03 - 7:45 pm


Barbara L. Bigelow

Barbara Bigelow

Questions For Borough Assembly Candidates

Reader's Question #1 - What planning methods would you use for future projects? (09/15/03)

check Response to question #1 - Published 09/16/03

Strategic planning could be considered for larger scale and more costly projects. Town meetings (perhaps quarterly or twice annually) where the public has an opportunity to offer opinion and expertise would be beneficial. The Assembly would then have some idea of community need and perception of a project. An effective business planning technique is the employment of a SWOT analysis. SWOT means: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Cost and benefit also must be factored. Essentially, the type of planning to utilize depends on the nature and extent of the project.

Reader's Question #2 - Several if not all of the candidates have stated that the Assembly should "fully fund" the school district. What obligation does the Assembly have, if any, to insure that the funding is wisely used by the school district ? (09/15/03)

check Response to question #2 - Published 09/16/03

The school district budget is governed by state statute, various regulations which regard the development of the school's budget, and the School Board. The Assembly should take an interest in school funding certainly, but as an elected body it has no authority to determine whether funds are used wisely. The Assembly must trust the School Board and the Superintendent to effectively manage their budget. Thank you for the question and the opportunity to respond to questions #1 and #2.


Reader's question #3 - Recently the current Assembly increased our property taxes and refused to make significant cuts in Borough grants to non profit special interest groups. In at least one case, the Borough obligates local taxpayers to pay for services from the UAS Ketchikan Campus that, according to Statute, should be paid by State funds.

Should local residents be forced to pay for University services that are an obligation of the State?

How can we bring some sort of control and spending limit on this Borough grants program?

Should we continue this Borough grants program when we are forced to cut required services such as the Borough bus? Thank you! (09/16/03)

check Response to question #3 - Published 09/20/03

The State funds the University of Alaska. Each year UA President Hamilton lobbies the Legislature for money. In a similar manner, the Director of a smaller UA extension may lobby locally, seeking budgetary assistance in certain programs for which the community is the direct beneficiary. The pass-through of Borough dollars to the UAS-Ketchikan campus has occurred for many years. The money requested is specifically earmarked for local workforce development and employee training. For every dollar the Borough appropriates to UAS-Ketchikan Campus, the State provides a general fund match. The money is not used for traditional academic (degree) programs, it is used for workforce development. A few examples include HazMat, certified nursing assistant, construction & welding, CDL (commercial drivers license), CPM (certified public manager) and forklift operator, to name only a few. Community business and industry have looked to UAS-Ketchikan to help with employee training and workforce development. Not only does this partnership keep and create jobs; it benefits both the business and employees. More persons can obtain training (or re-training) locally. The UAS-Ketchikan campus also serves as a testing center for many work-related examinations that otherwise would necessitate travel to Seattle or Anchorage.

The Borough Assembly had difficult decisions to make this past year. There are many needy social services organizations and other community groups who without the benefit of municipal assistance would be unable to obtain (state and federal) operating grants. Since the downturn of our local economy the number of persons in need has risen. Many social service organizations have been called upon more than ever to help individuals and families in crisis.

I believe we should and will continue to fund grant programs, but the level and number of dollars therein will need careful consideration. Our property taxes support the public schools almost 100%. Other taxes are allocated to other community programs. In regard to the Borough bus, like almost all public transit systems in America, it is a highly subsidized service. Even though the rider pays to board the bus, each time he or she does, the Borough and its taxpayers subsidize that service. To avoid 100% subsidy, the Bus must operate within constraint of coverage (miles), hours of operation, and frequency of route. I will continue to support the bus because it is a needed service. To look at bringing control and spending limits to agencies who rely on the Borough for assistance, the Assembly will perhaps need to more closely examine the budgets of those who request funding each year and make decisions based upon that analysis.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.


Reader's question #4. In light of the current and continuing tight budget situation within the borough, what is your position with regard to the possibility of raising taxes to increase revenues? And if you favor increased taxation, how would you accomplish it? i.e. property tax increase, head tax, increased user fees, etc. (09/22/03 - 11:30 pm)

check Response to question #4 (Published 09/23/03)

Property tax has been recently increased in the Borough. At present, I am not in favor of raising taxes. The voters, approximately two years ago, voted against a head tax on cruise-ship visitors to Ketchikan. I am not in support of the current sales tax proposals. There have been at least two positions in the Borough where an employee was told she/he was going to be laid off and then management changed tact and retained the employee (one was a clerical position and one a supervisory position). Later, one of these employees was again given a termination notice "for sure." These actions suggest to me that Borough Management does not have a clear idea what Borough employment should look like, nor of direction within Borough staff. I maintain the position that until the Borough can effectively demonstrate a fiscal need based upon a budget and working team that is as efficient as it can be, that raising taxes simply shifts an unfair burden to taxpayers during economic times.


Reader's question #5. Have you ever been asked to be dishonest as part of your job? If so, how did you handle it? Would you lie to, or mislead, the public if you felt the public would ultimately benefit? (09/28/03 - 11:50 PM)

check Response to question #5 (Published 10/01/03 - 12:40 pm)

Thankfully, I have never been asked in any position to be dishonest. As individuals, our opinions and decisions are based on interpretation of often complex and difficult information mixed with individual bias using past experience as well as future projection or end result. We operate from our own ethical center and take the thought, knowledge and opinion of others into consideration when making decisions. Essentially this process is carried forth when an individual is elected or appointed to serve in a governing role. An elected official should be able to explain her/his opinion and decision without lying or misleading the public.


Reader's question #6. (10/04/03 - 2:15 pm)

What do you think could be done to keep good jobs here in Ketchikan that are or might be exported to employees down south? And what more could the Borough do to promote new, good paying jobs?

check Response to question #6 (Published 10/05/03 - 7:45 pm)

One of the best ways for the Borough to promote "new good paying jobs" is by making Ketchikan a community where business and industry employing professional and skilled staff want to relocate and develop their business. The Borough in conjunction with the City could provide tax incentives such as TIF Districts (Tax Incremental Finance District) and reduced utility rates. There are many ways to help private businesses by tax incentives and credits.

The market determines much of what happens with "jobs." We see this in all skilled sectors of our economy. This can be particularly true for specialty construction and specific industrial work.

Borough support for education at all levels is critical, not only for attracting private business whose employees will have families, but for training and retraining of our local citizens to qualify for jobs. UAS-Ketchikan has done an excellent job of preparing many local people to assume new jobs or positions; an opportunity that many would not have had unless they left Ketchikan to attend programs elsewhere. This is simply not an option for many and going elsewhere may turn into a permanent relocation. Please refer back to my earlier response about funding UAS-Ketchikan for job-related programs.

In the business world, many positions are telecommuting jobs. A local person may work for a company elsewhere, but performs the work from her/his home. These jobs are computer-based and so are largely applicable to businesses using computers for transactions, research, data input/export and word streaming. Telecommuting lowers company costs and can save many from having to close down altogether. We can capitalize on this business trend by having a strong infrastructure to support telecommuters, i.e. training and affordable DSL/cable/wireless communication systems. Current community business can remain competitive by employing telecommuters as well as allow companies in the lower 48 states to employ from our community.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.


Questions For All Candidates

Reader's Question #1. Do you think it responsible of the Borough to increase our taxes to provide more convenient working (new government building) conditions, when the old mill offices are available to them while kids in this town fight for space to recreate. (09/22/03)

checkResponse to question #1 - Published 09/22/03

Unequivocally no. I do not support the current sales tax proposal.


Reader's Question #2. Many candidates have suggested they would make staff cuts as either the sole means of achieving fiscal responsibility or staff cuts combined with revenue increases. Which Borough staff and/or departments do these candidates feel are superfluous and expendable? Or if not that, least important to retain. (09/22/03 2:40 pm)

checkResponse to question #2 - Published 09/22/03

Over the years as a director and manager in my various roles, I have witnessed and/or been part of a budget cut that involved staff. I have been not only part of the team making the decisions, but one of the positions cut. The best way to make difficult decisions regarding "in-house" cuts is by reducing or eliminating programs and through staff attrition. Attrition means that positions are cut as staff leave, versus the more dramatic layoff or reduction of staff. If in fact, there were positions that should be eliminated, it is up to the Borough Manager to make that decision and recommend to the Assembly (her) his recommendation. It would be presumptuous of me to even suggest that any person or department be cut because I do not have in-depth working knowledge of the Borough and neither does any other Assemblyperson.


Reader's Question #3. If the city of Ketchikan has all this extra money in the bank, should city taxes be reduced to give taxpayers a break? Why is the city looking for so many ways to spend our money on lavish and expensive projects such as new library and museum construction? (09/25/03 - 1:00 pm)

checkResponse to question #2 - Published 10/01/03 - 12:40 pm

I believe it is prudent and wise for a municipality to have reserve dollars. Not only can the money be used for community projects and unfunded mandates; the money will grow by gaining interest and continue to "fund the funds." The Borough Assembly is not involved in the governance of the City; it is the job of the City Council and City Management. That said, the renovation and/or new infrastructure for the museum and library is a needed project that has broad-based community support. As a Borough resident I have been a user and a recipient of the benefits of the Library and the Museum. Both are well managed by competent and insightful individuals who have a solid grasp on the services offered to the community and visitors to Ketchikan.




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